Civil Obedience And Disobedience

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People often argue the inseparability of morality from politics because in theory, the all-encompassing political sphere consists of the ‘deliberative inclusive search’ for a shared notion of a ‘good’ life. This collaborative effort to create a co-existing, co-operative environment involves the government and the governed. For the purposes of this paper, I will reduce the latter to the ‘individual’. Occasionally, there are competing interests between the individual and the authority. Within this adversarial domain, the justification of ‘obedience to’ and ‘disobedience of’ come into question. So, before engaging in any sort of act, namely a ‘conscientious’ one, the government and the individual both endeavor to justify their actions as those …show more content…
The obligation to abide by the edicts of the government is secondary to the primary obligations we bear to one another. It is these individualistic obligations of self-expression and independence that provide the setting against which the “justification of civil disobedience as well as civil obedience is to be judged.” There are four conditions of obligation: citizenship, freedom, equality, and accountability. A person is both morally and politically obligated to obey the laws if and only if those conditions are upheld by the government. Civil disobedience is then defined as a ‘public, non-violent and conscientious breach of law undertaken with the aim of bringing about a change in laws or government policies.’ The people who choose to engage in such a political act are willing to accept the legal consequences of their actions, showing fidelity to the rule of law. Civil disobedience seems to be a kind of ‘conscientious refusal’ or a ‘revolutionary action’, but most of these acts are morally justifiable. In the mid-19th century, Henry David Thoreau refused to pay the state poll tax implemented to prosecute a war in Mexico and to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law. If we examine Thoreau’s civil disobedience, we may conclude that his justification rises from his duty to avoid becoming an instrument of injustice to others. He does not want to lend himself to a wrong that he condemns, thus conscientiousness highlights the moral conviction with which civil disobedients breach the law. The activism of Martin Luther King Jr. is a case in point. King was motivated by his religious convictions and his commitment to equality. If past efforts of communication with the government have shown it to be apathetic, then civil disobedience can serve as the last resort solution. It is also important that disobedients coordinate with other minorities for their disobedience to be readily justified. This

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